Defunding plumbing apprenticeship risks public’s safety, SNIPEF warns MSPs

February 20, 2023

Long-term defunding of Scottish plumbing apprenticeships risks public safety and stifles Holyrood's Net Zero ambitions, warned SNIPEF at a recent meeting with MSPs.

At February's Cross-Party Group on Construction, SNIPEF representatives raised several concerns about Skills Development Scotland's (SDS) recent announcement that no further apprenticeship funding would be available, seriously impacting the industry's immediate and future skills development prospects.

Attendees at the meeting were reminded that a cut in funding would not only affect the plumbing and heat engineering industry's growth and the government's Net Zero ambitions but could create redundancies for apprentices and stifle social levelling-up and rural community opportunities.

Following the meeting, Stephanie Lowe, SNIPEF's Acting Chief Executive, said, "At this time, SNIPEF has 44 current apprentices who have started their apprenticeships but cannot secure funding.

"We have experienced six years of funding stagnation and are being met with the possibility of more cuts. These barriers to entering our industry will undoubtedly damage our industry's ability to service the nation's needs. It simply cannot continue."

Other concerns highlighted by SNIPEF on the impact that funding cuts would have on the immediate and long-term delivery of qualified plumbers and heat engineers were:

The increased potential and use of unqualified people undertaking work due to the short supply and availability of professional plumbers endangering public lives through their lack of quality assured skills competency.

The loss of further education courses as colleges close unfunded programs, thereby decreasing the ability for Scotland to train and upskill those needed to maintain the industry.

A diminished chance of achieving a fundamental transition of Scotland's heat infrastructure without the people with the required skills, thereby relying on the import of talent to the detriment of local populations.

Noting the final point, Dale Thomson, SNIPEF Training Manager, said: "If the government is serious about meeting their Net Zero ambitions, they need to work in partnership with the industry to ensure adequate co-funding is in place to recruit and train the people who will be installing and maintaining these technologies.

"It takes four years for an apprentice to become fully qualified, and time is fast running out to meet the legally binding emission targets. I cannot guarantee enough qualified people will meet future demands at this time."

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